Thin

December 31, 2007

(at Memphis 76, UA 63)


Thin is not in.

Thin, as in our chances against Memphis once you saw Bayless and Brielmaier weren’t playing. Our odds weren’t good to begin with but you could’ve talked yourself into us playing a game like we did at Kansas and having a chance to steal it at the end. Since playing early games when you travel east is a disadvantage, playing a late game gives you an edge, right?

Thin, as in our bench when Jordan Hill picked up the two quick fouls. That put two of our top three scorers on the sidelines. So when Chase Budinger sat down in the first half we fielded a lineup of Nic Wise, Daniel Dillon, Jawann McClellan, Fendi Onobun, and Kirk Walters. Where are you supposed to get offense out of that? I’ll tell you what we did get, Kirk putting up a lefty hook-shot followed by a 15-foot jumper. I don’t have to tell you how that worked out for us.

Thin, as in Kirk Walters. Poor guy. His health struggles have been well-documented, and when he finally gets to play meaningful minutes in a meaningful game, the refs treat him like a cross between Ron Artest and Hannibal Lector.

Two intentional fouls? Really? I don’t think Kirk would intentionally harm you if you tried to pluck out his beard. On the first foul he had his head turned the other way. It wasn’t malicious, he’s just not that coordinated.

The second call was ridiculous. I didn’t know it was possible to intentionally foul someone without using your hands. With what, pray tell, were they claiming Kirk was flagrantly fouling? His pelvis? Maybe his armpit hair??

We should have known the Cats were in trouble when they got off to a fast start for a change. We raced out to a 14-6 lead, which became a 16-10 lead, which shrunk to an 18-15 advantage, which became an 18-31 disadvantage six and a half grueling minutes later. We then exploded for two made baskets to make things respectable at the break. Never before have I been so grateful for 24 first-half points.

I liked ESPN’s “What’s at stake” graphic: Arizona’s 6-game winning streak vs. Memphis’ 37-game home winning streak. We can’t let our six-game winning streak end! There will be rioting in the streets!

What are you gonna do? Memphis has a good program. So good in fact I think they may be able to take down that NIT Final Four banner.

There were some positives. Jerryd Bayless’ suit, for one. Him having to wear one wasn’t a positive, but him choosing to wear one when he couldn’t wear what he wanted to wear, was.

So now we’ve got injury issues. I’m also concerned about the health of some of the non-injured guys. Jawann had to play 37 minutes on Saturday, and that’s after 38 against SDSU and 40 at UNLV. I realize we didn’t have any other options at Memphis but – just a friendly word of caution – this is about the time we broke him last year.

Alas, the Pac-10 schedule waits for no hurt man. Here come the Oregon schools and the start of another season in the premier basketball conference in the West. Let’s take a look at what each Pac team has done so far. This will also serve as my de facto pre-conference-season power rankings.

UCLA
Best win – Michigan State, who beat Texas
Worst (only) loss – Texas, who lost to Wisconsin

WSU
Best win – Gonzaga, who beat UConn
Worst loss – none

Your Arizona Wildcats
Best win – Texas A&M, who beat Ohio State
Worst loss – Virginia, who lost to Seton Hall

Stanford
Best win – UC-Santa Barbara, who beat UNLV
Worst (only) loss – Siena, who lost to the Honda Odyssey, and Cornell.

ASU
Best win – Xavier, who beat Indiana
Worst loss – Illinois, who lost to Tennessee State

USC
Best win – Southern Illinois, who beat St. Mary’s
Worst loss – Mercer, who lost to Harvard

Washington
Best win – Utah, who beat Cal
Worst loss – Oklahoma State, who lost to Oral Roberts

Oregon
Best win – Kansas State, who beat Cal
Worst loss – Oakland, who lost to – take your pick: UW-Green Bay, Duquesne, Southern Utah, Toledo

Cal
Best win – San Diego State, who beat, uh, Loyola Marymount?
Worst loss – Utah, who lost to Santa Clara

Oregon State
Best win – Northern Colorado. I wish I was kidding.
Worst loss – Alaska Fairbanks, who lost to UC-Irvine

The Ducks proved they weren’t deserving of their preseason ranking, but they’re undefeated at home. The Huskies also look like they’ll be a very tough out on their home floor. And don’t look now but ol’ Herbie Sun Devil has put together a decent little resume.

So I put the Cats as the third best team, whatever that means. Actually, it probably means the best of the teams not likely to compete for the conference championship. Naturally, that’s assuming we get all our guys healthy and keep them that way, which has to be the main concern at this point.

What about fan goals? In football second place gets you a better bowl than third place, but in hoops the minimum is making the tournament and the maximum is winning the league. Where you fall in between doesn’t really matter.

Therefore I am looking for two things: 1) Defend our home court. It has gotten way too easy for teams to come into McKale and walk out with wins. Getting swept at home definitely has to stop. 2) Beat UCLA. Just once is all I ask. And in keeping with goal #1, I’m hoping we play really well on Sunday, March 2nd.

It’s time to get fat.

--

This week’s football segment takes on a more positive tone as we get to talk about our second favorite team (Whoever’s Playing ASU) and their bowl game. That was 52 points worth of fun, wasn’t it?

We all know the Cats only have one bowl win in the past ten years. But how many bowl wins do you think Arizona State has in that same time period? They’ve got to be running away from us, right? Think again. The answer is two. We have one bowl win in the past decade, and they have two.

Yes, they’ve gone to seven bowls in the past nine years and we haven’t gone to any. And, yes, it’s better to lose a bowl than to not play in one. But with all the practice they have with these extra games you’d think they’d be better at them.

The Longhorning also means that in the state of Arizona, the UA still has the more recent top-10 finish, as well as the most recent big-4 bowl win. But, don’t forget, they’re still the “football school.”

It’s also time to bring back a not-so-oldie but a goodie:

What do ASU students do after major bowl victories?

I don’t know. Most of them weren’t around in 1986.

Have a Wildcat New Year!



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